Researchers from Purdue University have developed a new cancer therapy that may hold the key to slowing the growth of deadly mesothelioma tumors. The scientists revealed that after tricking cancer cells into absorbing a small portion of RNA that blocks cell division, the aggressive cells did not increase in size for three weeks. By contrast, over the same 21-day period, cancer cells that had not been treated grew three times over.
New Therapy Holds Promise for Stopping Aggressive Mesothelioma Tumors
Malignant mesothelioma is among the most challenging forms of cancer to treat: its cells are notoriously resistant to traditional cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These are exactly the traits that the Purdue researchers focused on when devising their new approach. Their goal was to address cancers whose genes are resistant to other cancer protocols.
Though the research is only in its earliest stages, the innovation reported in the journal Oncogene may hold promise for aggressive cancers like malignant mesothelioma. The researchers created a specially modified version of microRNA-34a and combined it with a delivery system that targets cancer cells. The end result acts “like the brakes on a car” according to lead author Andrea Kasinski, the William and Patty Miller Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Purdue University.
MicroRNA Suppresses Activity of Cancer-Resistant Genes
Cancers like malignant mesothelioma are known to contain genes that are resistant to cancer therapies, and the microRNAs the researchers created are known to suppress the activities of those genes. The microRNA-34a that is being used is generally missing in cancer cells, though it is abundant in healthy cells. The researchers’ approach reintroduces the molecule to the cells, stabilizing it to improve its durability to the point where it endures for at least 120 hours after being introduced to the cancer cells.
The researchers attached the microRNA to a molecule of folate. Folate is a molecule which all cells have receptors for, but many cancer cells – including pleural mesothelioma cells – have more of them than healthy cells do. This helps the microRNA penetrate the tumors and bind to them. Once inside, they slow cell division. Additional research is required, but those battling the rare form of cancer may have new reason to hope.
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